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Joint plea for dog owners to act responsibly around sheep

The National Sheep Association (NSA) and RSPCA have teamed up to urge dog owners to take extra care around sheep & livestock.


RSPCA Inspector Tony Woodley (right) with sheep farmer Ross Armour put up NSA warning signs to dog owners

With the traditional lambing season approaching and reports of dog attacks on sheep increasing, the National Sheep Association (NSA) and RSPCA have teamed up to urge dog owners to take extra care.

Every year sheep are killed, maimed and miscarry because of being chased and attacked by dogs. This is a serious animal welfare concern and also caused a great deal of emotional stress and financial cost to sheep farmers around the country.

Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, says: “A growing number of our members continue to tell us of some horrendous attacks they have suffered to their livestock. It is not only the harrowing injuries which out of control dogs have inflicted, but also the losses they have suffered as a result of dogs simply chasing livestock.

“The risk of heavily pregnant ewes aborting is extremely high after suffering the stress of been chased by dogs, not to mention the risk of young lambs becoming separated from their mother at a critical early bonding stage. Lambs will die from starvation or hypothermia when they become separated from their mother and fail to find her again.”

NSA has been collecting evidence of sheep worrying incidents for several years now, with case after case highlighting the damage a pet can inflict when it is left unsupervised.

Tony Woodley, RSPCA Inspector, adds: “No dog owner sets out on a walk to hurt sheep but sadly that is what can happen if the dog is allowed to run loose around livestock. Many dogs, if given the opportunity, will chase or show interest in livestock so even if your pet is normally calm, gentle, obedient and docile, don’t be complacent; they can be still be a danger.

“The aftermath of these attacks can be absolutely horrific – sheep with their ears ripped off, their legs bitten down to the bone and their throats torn open. Dog owners should also remember that they could be prosecuted and their dog could be shot dead if they are caught worrying sheep.”

Both NSA and RSPCA want to reiterate to dog owners that there is there is a very simple way to stop these attacks – keep your dog on a lead around livestock.

Tips for dog owners:

  • Watch for signs warning of livestock and keep your dog on a lead around farm animals and in areas you suspect animals may be grazing, or avoid them completely.
  • If your dog chases sheep, report it to the farmer even if there is no apparent injury as the stress of worrying by dogs can cause sheep to die and pregnant ewes to miscarry their lambs
  • Make sure your dog is wormed regularly and pick up it’s mess to stop diseases spreading to livestock
  • Visit and to learn more about responsible dog ownership.

Tips for farmers:

  • Put up signs warning dog owners where livestock are grazing. For free signs* email
  • Keep fencing in good repair to ensure sheep don’t stray from the area they should be in.
  • Always report an incident, however minor, to the police. Lack of reporting makes it difficult to raise awareness of the severity of the problem.

*NSA can supply sheep farming members with free hardwearing plastic dog control signs, carrying the NSA and RSPCA logos. As part of the NSA’s involvement in the Farmers Guardian ‘Take The Lead’ Campaign, red laminated signs are also available for non-members.

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